Today marks one year since BYU notified students that classes would take an extended weekend off and then be held virtually for the remainder of the semester.
What at first seemed like BYU’s first spring break and a chance to move back home with family turned into an ongoing, worldwide pandemic that no one at the time properly understood. In reflection of this anniversary, here is a recap of how the pandemic affected life at BYU.
BYU was notified by the Utah County Health Department that an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 was in attendance at the men’s basketball game between Gonzaga and BYU on Feb. 22.
The first study abroad rograms affected by the pandemic were programs in China, South Korea and a few in Italy. Several students in China and South Korea for study abroad programs were brought home since the outbreak of the virus.
At the time, students were still planning on studying abroad during Spring and Summer Terms, but later all programs were canceled until at least Fall Semester 2021.
BYU announced over Twitter that all classes on March 13, 16 and 17 were canceled in alignment with COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Church Education System on March 11, 2020.
In addition, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also announced that all worship services, activities and other public gatherings were temporarily canceled worldwide.
There was an eerie feeling when the sports world woke up on March 12. The NBA was the first North American professional league to suspend its season, and as the day wore on, more dominoes fell and every professional sport was suspended. Then the real heartbreaker came — the NCAA canceled all winter and spring sports that were still in session, including championship tournaments.
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent out a letter to members worldwide on March 20 announcing changes to missionary work because of the continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most missionaries serving outside their native countries were sent home and Missionary Training Centers were closed, moving all preparation online.
BYU received a notification that a student enrolled in classes at BYU tested positive for COVID-19. An off-campus property manager reported the case to the university on March 23, 2020.
Caps and gowns, commencement speakers, pictures with friends — all hallmarks of a traditional college graduation ceremony. But last year was drastically different.
COVID-19 forced BYU’s graduating seniors to conclude their college experience online and disrupted their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to formally celebrate their graduation.
BYU announced it would hold hybrid classes, which combine in-person and remote learning, for Fall Semester.
A letter from President Kevin J Worthen said students and employees are required to wear face coverings in all classroom settings, in all university buildings, during interactions with campus guests and customers, in other areas where directed and when physical distancing is hard to be maintained.
The beginning of Fall Semester brought a lot of questions for students. One question was how BYU would handle testing its student’s for COVID-19. Students, faculty and staff were not required to be tested in order to return to campus. Instead BYU’s testing plan, required the testing of students and employees within four broad categories: symptomatic individuals, those who have had close contact with a known COVID-19 case, risk-based evaluation and testing, and randomized testing across the BYU community.
BYU outlined its expectations of students regarding COVID-19 protocols for Fall Semester, but how it would enforce those guidelines was less clear — and it seems students took advantage of this.
Large gatherings where individuals were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing occurred in student’s first week back on campus despite BYU’s encouragement to avoid such gatherings and follow safety guidelines.
Provo-based party company Young/Dumb hosted an indoor dance party one month after receiving local attention and social media criticism for a similar event. “The Glow Up Show Up: Back to School Neon Dance Party” took place Friday, Sept. 4, capping off BYU’s first week back to school.
The Utah County Health Department and county commissioners issued a public health order mandating masks on Sept. 22, 2020 after cases in the county spiked.
The order applied to anyone in the county in an indoor or outdoor public area where consistent social distancing isn’t possible. It also allowed for multiple exemptions including individuals under 5 years old, those with medical conditions and people eating or drinking.
BYU Athletics originally announced that 6,000 fans would be in attendance at LaVell Edwards Stadium against Troy for the Cougars’ home opener, but an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in Utah County altered the original plans.
The Cougars went on to defeat the Troy Trojans by a final score of 48-7 in the home opener, with several BYU players setting new career highs.
BYU sports were uniquely affected by the pandemic, as teams played in front of empty stadiums or saw multiple games canceled when opponents dealt with COVID-19 exposures.
BYU students learned they would attend Winter Semester classes with the same options of blended and online delivery available in Fall Semester, in an Oct. 12 email from University Communications.
Former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced a statewide mask mandate Nov. 8, 2020, citing record COVID-19 numbers and full hospitals. Utah’s cases numbers, deaths and hospitalizations shot up over the week leading up to the mandate.
BYU encouraged students to return home and stay there through the holidays and end of the semester with all classes going remote after Thanksgiving.
BYU adopted a new testing plan developed by the Utah System of Higher Education. According to a message from University Communications, all students who live in on-campus housing or have in-person classes “were asked to take a COVID-19 screening test during the first 10 days of Winter Semester.” After the first 10 days, testing has been focused and random. Students who show symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in exposed to others with COVID-19 will also need to get tested.
President Russell M. Nelson and his wife received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine along with seven other General Authorities and their wives.
A statement released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Jan. 19 says “the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization.”
As of March 11, over 330,000 Utahns were fully vaccinated, with plans to gradually increase vaccine efforts and availability in the coming months.
However, Utah will join a handful of states next month as it lifts its statewide mask mandate on April 10. The mandate will expire just days after the state opens vaccine appointments to all adult residents on April 1.